This book review is a special for BlackFive readers from Elise Cooper. You can find all of our book reviews, recommendations and discussions under the category "Books":
Henry Crumpton, responsible for the CIA’s global counter-terrorism operations, whose CIA career spanned over twenty-four years, has written a book, The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA’s Clandestine Service. He discusses how joining the CIA was a childhood dream, which was fulfilled in 1981.
Anyone who has ever wondered what an operative’s duties are, the inner workings of the CIA, the interplay between the CIA and FBI, and how the CIA operates in and outside the US should find this book interesting. He goes into detail explaining how operatives, analysts, technicians, and support staff work together to accomplish a mission.
The first few chapters discuss his early assignments in Liberia, all over Africa, and his appointment, as a liaison in 1998, becoming the deputy chief of the FBI’s International Terrorism Operations Section. He explained that the FBI and CIA worked well together investigating the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. However, he stated in the book his “disappointment had to do with the FBI’s exclusive focus on law enforcement, on capture, and indictments of specific criminals for specific crimes. Forward-looking intelligence collection and analysis were almost nonexistent. The FBI sought justice, not prevention.”
The best parts of the book are when Crumpton gives his insight into the Afghanistan campaign shortly after 9/11. The reader will get an in depth description of how the US was able to achieve revenge, justice, and a swift victory by combining airstrikes, special forces, and CIA operatives. He commented directly, “Both Al Qaeda and the Taliban were almost wiped out in late 2001. Too bad we did not finish the job. In 2001 we were viewed as comrades-in-arms and not just accepted, but welcomed and protected. Many of the Taliban, I believe, are fighting us because we are there in such numbers. Only the Afghans can win this war. We must empower them as we did in 2001.”
Although America had accomplished its goal in Afghanistan in less than three months the author writes that these gains were “transitory…a few CIA guys and a limited US military scattered around the country had no chance of holding on to the gains made.” He told blackfive.net, “Our mission was to destroy AQ. Not that we needed a military occupation force, but rather a rapid way of empowering the Afghans to establish legitimate governance, especially the rule of law. We are very good at finding and killing the enemy, and getting better every year, but then what? Locals need to be the ones defending themselves and building institutions that are viable, resilient, and connected to the rest of the world.”
Since he was at the CIA during the interrogation program after 9/11 it would have been nice if he had discussed and given his opinion on some of the decisions made during that time period. The only issue he addressed in the book is President Obama releasing “the details of enhanced interrogation techniques that had been approved and directed by the previous administration. The Obama Administration sought to curry favor with elements of the Democratic Party at the expense of the CIA and its officers.”
When asked about the post 9/11 CIA policies, he responded, “The CIA should have never been in the prisoner detention business, but the CIA should participate in the interrogation of enemy prisoners. Our military and law enforcement are both equipped to deal with prisoners; the CIA should focus on intelligence collection and analysis, not penal responsibilities.”
This book explains some of the reasons behind the decision-making as well as why the CIA and intelligence is more needed today than any other time in America’s history. The main focus of the Art of Intelligence is Crumpton’s analysis of the special conditions, urgency, and success of the Afghanistan mission shortly after September 11th. If for no other reason the book should be read for these chapters.